By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
MACON COUNTY — A true gentleman, devoted husband and father, a mountain man who cared about the region and its people, a true listener and encourager who was hard-working, honesty and humble — the accolades went on and on as former Sen. Bob Carpenter was laid to rest Aug. 10 at St. Francis Catholic Church in Franklin.
The 87-year-old retired bank executive and stalwart community servant was a longtime friend of the Christian Action League.
“I would dare say Senator Carpenter was one of the finest legislators ever in the General Assembly. I don’t think there was ever a man there of a finer character or with more integrity,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.
An eight-term Republican Senator and World War II Navy veteran, Carpenter was perhaps best known in Raleigh for his work on health issues. He got a safe haven law passed to allow mothers to responsibly hand over unwanted newborns without facing child abandonment charges and pushed through a law requiring insurance companies to pay for colorectal screenings after his first wife, Ruth, died of cancer in 1985. He also worked to improve jail conditions in the wake of several inmate deaths.
Creech said an incident in which a young woman pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to prison after dumping her baby in a Macon County landfill affected Carpentered deeply, leading him to advocate for the safe haven law.
“Some Christian agencies opposed the measure as did the Christian Action League at first, fearing that it would encourage irresponsibility and more abandonment of children,” the Rev. Creech said. “But then I began to rethink the issue and visited Sen. Carpenter, who always had an incredibly gracious way about him, sort of a strong, velvet hand.”
Creech said Carpenter listened to his concerns but then quite simply asked … “Which would you rather have, an abandoned baby or a dead baby?”
The CAL changed its position, and at Carpenter’s request, the Rev. Creech spoke in support of the bill in committee to help break a logjam. The measure then passed both chambers within a short time.
“It was one of those moments in my lobbying career that I will always cherish. Sharing that victory with Sen. Carpenter was certainly my most memorable and one of the most meaningful of my life’s experiences,” Creech said.
He said he didn’t know of any time Carpenter voted in any way contrary to the CAL’s values and that the Senator and his wife, Helen, were always avid CAL supporters and longtime advisory board members, directing the organization to a number of significant donors.
Creech also credited the Carpenters with keeping the chapel services at the General Assembly alive, coordinating excellent speakers on a daily basis.
“There would be no services today if it had not been for them. When they were in charge there were chapel services every day around noon,” he said. “They were devout in their faith and kept that chapel alive when he was in the NCGA.”
Elected as senator in 1988, Carpenter had already been serving his community via Knights of Columbus, American Legion, Sons of the American Revolution, and the Franklin Rotary Club, to which he belonged for more than 50 years. He was also instrumental in getting Little League baseball started in Franklin.
As story after story honoring Carpenter surfaced in the wake of his death, perhaps one of the most revealing comments came from Rep. Roger West, R-Cherokee.
“He worked on a lot of things I guess he didn’t get credit for,” West told the media. “But he was the type that didn’t want credit — he wanted to get things done.’’
“The Christian Action League bids farewell to a gracious Christian warrior,” said Rev. Creech. “May his tribe increase until Jesus comes again.”